Going on a Tapas Tour is not the sort of thing I would usually have done – it screams touristy and expensive, something that belongs to the cruise crowd or weekend trippers who don’t have time to research and organise their own evenings. However, I was given an evening with Adventurous Appetites as a gift for me and a friend. On their website they claim that,
If you are the type of person who likes to get away from the main tourist areas and get a real feel for the cities you visit, come with us and let us show you why we love Madrid. Not for us the bustling main square, full of tourists, where the food and drink is expensive and frankly average. We like the local ambience with traditional food and drink and ‘Madrileño’ culture.
Adventurous Appetites offers a service for those people who, after visiting the tourist sites (or working!) during the day, want to soak up the atmosphere and culture of the real Madrid in the evening. We will take you to sample traditional Spanish cuisine in some of the hidden corners of central Madrid, where the food and drink is fantastic, the atmosphere buzzing and the prices very reasonable.
We will help you choose your food and recommend local specialities whilst acquainting you with fascinating local facts and advising you on what must not be missed in Madrid. Not heavy history and a list of exact dates, what we tell you is mainly anecdotal! The aim of the evening is to leave clients with a real and lasting feeling for the city and its people, whilst eating and drinking really well.
We do not offer one of those ‘all-inclusive packages’ but a personalised service. You choose what you want to eat and how much you want to pay, we are here to guide you and help you experience Madrid in an authentic and memorable way.
I emailed to book an evening and after receiving a very friendly reply off we went. It was a Tuesday evening and the information we had was to meet by the bear statue next to the Sol metro (a good choice of meeting place – central and impossible to miss).
The host, James Fraser, turned out to be charming and engaging and extremely knowledgable about his adopted home city. As we walked between locations he filled us in on some great nuggets of history about Madrid. The choice of the six bars was excellent, although unfortunately I can’t list them here as part of their attempt to keep their choices as genuine local establishments rather than tourist traps.
We started with a Northern speciality – dry cider (surprisingly delicious) poured properly into the glasses from a great height as is only proper (see attached photo for a demonstration of the ideal way to pour cider!). This bar was a very good choice as a first stop – the drama of pouring helped break the ice between the group and the cider and blue cheese combination was so unexpectedly good it allowed us to trust our host to make all the choices for food and drink for the evening – something I would definitely recommend to help take you out of your comfort zones).
Of the six establishments only one was even slightly disappointing – perhaps because I had already experienced the tinto verrano and jamon combinations, but even here the experience was educational. The skin around your chorizo, your cocktail sticks, napkins, etc. do not belong in a bin but on the floor, carelessly discarded in true Spanish fashion. In the fourth bar, my favourite of the night, we had a truly special red wine from the Ribera del Duero (an Arzuaga Crianza – ‘Pesquera’) and some local specialities including a chickpea and ‘veal guts’ (a wonderfully enticing translation) stew (free with the drinks) and some delicious little green peppers which are for the most part humane, until the one in a hundred that might blow the roof of your mouth off…
I have to say, despite my initial reservations, the evening I spent with Aventurous Appetites was one of the best I have had in Madrid. They more than live up to their claims of remaining off the beaten track and choosing wonderful and new foods. My advice would be – definitely go and then when you do, just go with the flow of the evening. Let your host (hopefully James, if you are as lucky as us!) take over and be adventurous! Try everything, get drunk, eat your heart out. You won’t be disappointed.
(In the interests of maintaining their ability to remain off the beaten track, and as agreed with the host, I have not listed the names of the bars we visited. However, if you email we are willing to recommend a few of our own. This review is for the experience and they are careful to choose lots of different bars so you may not visit the same places as us.)